I’ve been a copywriter in the Green Bay radio market for six years now.  As summer winds down every year, advertisers ramp up their promotions tied to the impending NFL season.  We are a state that prides itself on our Green Bay Packers, and every business rightfully identifies the opportunity to cash in on green and gold fever.

So come August every year, I find myself becoming a killjoy to Packer-happy businesses looking to wear their affinity for Green Bay football on their sleeve.  I don’t mean to be a downer.  I live within walking distance from Lambeau Field myself, so I understand that showing pride in the Packers is a natural desire for local businesses.

The Packers, as well as the NFL, have built a strong, valuable brand.  There’s no doubt about it.  It’s only natural to protect that brand.  That’s why they issue guidelines about acceptable use of their trademarks, including what wordings and images can be used in ad copy.  (That includes player photos, Lambeau Field photos and logos, and even the giveaway of game tickets!)  That’s why you’ll hear the airwaves saturated with phrases like “the Green and Gold,” “The Pack,” “Green Bay football,” or “Green Bay’s Frozen Tundra.”

Some businesses are excepted from this stuff, particularly those who obtain permission from the Packers, those who officially sponsor the Packers (think the faces on those big billboards inside Lambeau Field) and others.  But chances are, a little mom-and-pop bar looking to show the game on their 20 HDTVs haven’t been granted such an exemption.

This will be my first year as a copywriter in which Green Bay has gone on to the Super Bowl, which adds another phrase to my vocabulary of no — “The Big Game.”  This week, practically every business in Green Bay — and Wisconsin, for that matter — will be preparing advertisements and promotions to ride on the Packers and the Super Bowl excitement that goes with it.  I’m hypervigilent with my clients to protect them from possible trademark infringement, but with the advent of social media, not everyone passes their promotions through a protective filter like me.

Social media promotions aren’t likely any different than purchasing airtime on local TV or radio, and you would fall under the same guidelines as everyone else.  Will the Packers or the NFL come after you for using “Packers,” “Super Bowl” or a photo of Aaron Rodgers in a promotion or advertisement for your business, even in social media?  Maybe, maybe not.  It’s not outside the realm of possibility.  The NFL has gone after churches in past who hold big-screen Super Bowl parties, so anything’s fair game.

This doesn’t mean you can’t harness Super Bowl mania for your business.  You just have to be smart about it to make sure you’re not running afoul of trademark infringement.  You can always skirt using actual trademarks with words like “Green and Gold,” “Green Bay football” and such.  People around here are smart enough, especially this week, to know what you mean.  Also steer clear of using photos (including player photos) and logos in your promotion, or in your social media presence.  Sure it’s great to show your Packers pride by pasting a Packers logo or Clay Matthews photo onto your Facebook profile picture, but it may be blurring the lines between fandom and implied endorsement.

Get creative!  You can easily paint a Green and Gold picture in your customers’ minds without being blatant.  You’ll get through.